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School kindles hope for hundreds of special needs families

Guo Shuyu


Liangjiang New Area Media Center


The campus of Xingguang School. [Photo provided by Xingguang School]

Ran Ran suddenly rushed out of her class, and her classmates had been accustomed to her being like that. She then made her way to the garden downstairs, her safe place and oasis of calm. Having been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, Ran is allowed to take time out and head to the garden whenever things get too much, and she needs some time alone.

Ran is not the only student with special education needs at Xingguang School, a general primary school in Liangjiang New Area that has been carrying out inclusive education since its establishment in 2008. It has thus kindled hope for many students and families of children with special needs.

"I was astounded when Ran was enrolled four years ago. She is physically a lot smaller than most of the students at her age, and she can have an emotional outburst at any time. She was rarely quiet, often disruptive in class, and sometimes she would even turn violent," Zhang Lingling recalled. She is the head teacher of Ran's class.

Ran's parents felt so helpless that they considered sending her to a special education school. They turned to Zhang for advice, but the head teacher refused to give up on Ran.

"As a mother myself, I know what a child means to a family, and I wanted to help," Zhang said. She saw a kind heart in Ran, who would often cover her with a coat when she was taking a nap in the office. "I can't bear the idea of her being at a special school. She is not well, so we are going to help her."

The general idea is to help Ran discover her talents and try not to single her out as being different from her classmates. To Ran's peers, she is "our own Henri Fabre" – a reference to the famous French entomologist - as she always finds different insects in the garden and takes good care of the plants there.

"Her classmates appreciate her talent. They know she gets angry sometimes, but she is growing better at controlling it. We accept her, comfort her, and make her feel better, as she is one of us." Zhang said.

Now in the fourth grade, Ran still needs to seek out her oasis of calm occasionally, but much less often than before. "At a school sports event a few weeks ago, she performed at the opening ceremony and even ran a relay race," Zhang said, beaming with pride.


The campus of Xingguang School. [Photo provided by Xingguang School]

For students with special needs, growing up with ordinary kids is positive for their social development and can stimulate their potential. As such, they stand a better chance of leading an ordinary life, according to Jiang Hua, a child psychologist hired by the school.

Composed of psychological experts, teachers, and a family liaison center, the inclusive education framework of Xingguang School enables the school and families to work together to help students with special needs.

"Both sides should play an indispensable part in facing reality, and accepting their child as they are. They must do whatever is needed to help their kid grow up and develop," Jiang said.

Under this framework, teachers are trained to identify and help students with special needs and give them extra care and the proper approach, while psychological experts offer regular training courses as well as ad hoc counseling services.

Since 2014, Xingguang School has accepted 386 students with special needs. Of them, 270 have improved significantly and more than 100 have won awards at the municipal level or above.

Changes can also happen to regular students. During one recent school outing, a mischievous boy held Ran's hand to help her walk down a mountain path. Another girl in her class volunteered to take care of her when Ran was having trouble with dictation. "They care for others, especially those in need. That's what I believe to be a successful education," Zhang said.

Note: Ran Ran is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of the minor featured in this story.


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